Emil Voráč

* 1961

  • "I decided, right after Russia invaded Ukraine, to go to the Slovak-Ukrainian border. Just after the invasion, I left with two friends to see what the situation was like there, on the border. And there we noticed a double standard just towards the Roma refugees. I was very sorry about that. I went there with a nine-seater van and decided to bring a family of at least six people to the Czech Republic. And a kind of homeless family. There were families who waited two to four days before they were checked in. When it was their turn, they would send them aside and let the ethnic Ukrainians in, but not the Roma. And when they got across the border and were in Slovakia, People in Need [Czech NGO, trans.] were providing buses. And I was terribly surprised, because the ethnic Ukrainians, for example, expressed their displeasure that the Roma should join them on the bus, and they were simply obliged. So they [the Roma] waited there for another two, three or four days."

  • "I remember when I was already starting my military service, today I'm about 41 years out of the army, but I remember it, so I soon found that R [the letter R] in my file, a marking. And I was asked why I wasn't a member of the Communist Party, and I proudly said I would never be there. And then for half a year in that army I suffered precisely because I refused to join the Communist Party. So I had that experience too. And the R surprised me there. I didn't think much of it, but it was my friend, a non-Roma, who pointed it out to me. He said, 'Look, they really register you here like a gypsy.'"

  • "I've been through a lot at school too... I'll tell you a story. Once at school, and it was for fun, my friends took the laces out of my slippers. And I was chasing them down the corridor to give me back the shoelaces. And the teacher stopped us, she was called a comrade teacher at that time, and she asked what we were doing running around in the corridor? And she was holding me by my shoulder. I said that the boys had taken my shoelaces and that I wanted her to give them back to me. And she said very loudly, so that everyone could really hear, 'Tell me, Voráč, when did the gypsies have shoelaces? Don't make excuses that they took your shoelaces.' The boys and everybody in the corridor had a great fun about it, but I was very traumatised because the laughing from my friends didn't stop. Even the next day when I came to school, everybody was pointing at me. Gypsies, you have no shoelaces! And they were laughing. It wasn't those kids' fault, we didn't stop being friends. But I was so upset that I didn't go to school for a week after that."

  • Full recordings
  • 1

    Praha, 30.07.2022

    duration: 02:21:42
    media recorded in project Stories of 20th Century
Full recordings are available only for logged users.

I was surprised that during communism the personnel department registered us Roma under the letter R

Emil Voráč in 2022
Emil Voráč in 2022
photo: Post Bellum

Emil Voráč was born on 25 March 1961 in Karlovy Vary into a family of Romani people who immigrated to the Czech Republic from Slovakia just after the war. He spent his childhood in the Karlovy Vary region and went to school in Chodov near Karlovy Vary. He came from a large family - his mother had nine siblings and he was one of five children. From childhood he had a desire to be a famous musician or singer, and he even beat Dalibor Janda [a pop singer, trans.] in a singing competition. He wanted to work in Amati Kraslice, but he trained as a tractor mechanician and an agricultural machinery repairman. During his military service he found out that citizens of Roma origin were listed in a special register marked by the letter R during communism, which he verified after the revolution. In 1989 he was on the strike committee, after the Velvet Revolution he founded the Roma Club of Interpersonal Relations and studied the subject of social work in the milieu of ethnic minorities at the Evangelical Academy in Prague. In 2001, he founded the Khamoro society, which has been helping people from excluded localities in the Karlovy Vary Region for a long time and is also involved in commemorating the Romani Holocaust. Although being a Roma, he learned Romani as an adult from Roma people and now uses it as his second language. Emil Voráč fights against violence, injustice, racism and xenophobia and organises demonstrations. At one of them he welcomed the architect Osamu Okamura. Currently (2022) Emil Voráč and Khamoro are helping Roma refugees from Ukraine.